After arriving back in the US, we realize once again how cultures have varying customs. Things are done differently in each culture. We get used to how things are done in Thailand, even when some of them are more difficult than how it is in America. One common example of this is throwing toilet paper in the wastebasket, not in the toilet. After even a short time, you must consciously think about where to toss the TP when you are finished with it. It is these seemingly little things that keep tripping me up and make me double think much of what I have been doing the last few days.
In Thailand, cars drive on the wrong, I mean left, side of the road. People walk on the right side, but drive on the left. I still can’t figure out that oddity. I don’t drive in Thailand as there is no need with all the accessible public transportation. We do ride in cars though, and I have to double think every time I go to climb into a car here. It feels awkward to get in and drive on the left side, or jump into the passenger seat on the right side.
While driving with my sister in the car the other day, we needed to turn right out of a parking lot and onto the street to get on the freeway. I thought for a second and then headed for the signal so that we could turn right and avoid the cars going the other direction. As I turned, my sister questioned what I was doing and asked why I wasn’t going the shortest way by just turning right out of the parking lot. That shook me out of my confusion and I had to laugh that I was driving as if I was in Thailand, except my car was still on the right side of the road.
Another little mix up comes when I go to take a warm shower. We have warm water in our apartment in Bangkok, even though we only need it a few months out of the year. It comes through an instant hot water electrical system. When I go to get ready for a shower here in America, I get everything ready for the shower before undressing and being cold right before the warm water. The problem is that I don’t think about the water needing time to warm up until I am freezing and waiting for it. After a few times of freezing while waiting, I think that I will remember when I go to take a shower that I need to prepare the water also.
I could give many more examples of little things I do, or must think carefully about before doing, as I try to remember all of the little things people do differently here in the United States.
A backwards mix-up: While many things remind me how things are done in the US, some things make me think of Thailand. It is common to see odd combinations of words as Thais are not proficient in English. Today, while in the bathroom, I noticed that the hand soap was labeled, “hand and body shampoo.” Are girls’ hands so hairy that they need to use shampoo to clean them? This type of wording is common in Thailand and made me think I was back there for just a moment.